22 September, 2011
The birth of a child is a momentous, life-altering occasion. It may provoke overwhelming joy or immense depression, which in thought can seem unimaginable. How the introduction of a newborn child into the world can induce these two extremes is intriguing. In his poems, “Infant Sorrow” and “Infant Joy,” William Blake makes use of diction and imagery to convey contrasting themes about the recent birth of a child. Blake portrays a distressed, dejected image of childbirth in “Infant Sorrow.” Contrastingly, he conveys a blissful, jubilant perception of a newborn child in “Infant Joy.”
The poem “Infant Sorrow” is told solely from the viewpoint of a newborn infant. The diction in this poem is critical to its theme. The title itself arouses negative feelings within the reader. Blake begins the poem with the line “My mother groand! My father wept.” The words groaned and wept instantly invoke feelings of pain and hurt. Blake continues by letting the infant describe how he “leapt” into the “dangerous world,” “helpless, naked, [and] piping loud.” This image of the infant, one in which he is screaming and naked adds to the negative vibe induced by the poem. Next the infant figuratively compares himself to “a fiend hid in a cloud.” The term fiend has a very powerful, negative meaning. Additionally the words “struggling,” “striving,” and “bound and weary” capture an image of a helpless infant in misery. The swaddling hands could manifest from the restraint in not being able to convey what he wants. And the final line of the poem, “To sulk upon my mother’s breast” shows the infants defeat. The poem “Infant Joy” is written as a dialogue between a newborn child and her mother who cannot understand her. The lines “I happy am, Joy is my name” initiate positive feelings within readers. In this line the infant names herself Joy. The second stanza begins with the infant’s mother exclaiming, “Sweet joy befall thee!” The phrase “sweet...
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